Container wall construction stopped, but who pays for $100 mil cleanup?

Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 6:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Now that the National Forest Service and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have reached an agreement to remove the three miles of shipping containers the Governor has erected in the Coronado National Forest, the questions are beginning to swirl about how to get them out of there and who pays for it.

“If they’re not removed the damage is very severe,” said Robin Silver, a founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, which set up an encampment that ended the placement of the 900 containers.

Silver’s concern is not only what happens to the landscape but the endangered species, like the Jaguar and Ocelot which use the area as a wildlife corridor but is now blocked by the containers.

“That means they’re really imperiled and so they can’t tolerate many more insults to their ability to survive much less recover,” he said.

The containers also block water flow into the San Pedro River which is already stressed.

“Governor Ducey spent an estimated $95 million putting the 900 containers in place East of Sierra Vista on federal land much the same as he did in near Yuma to fill some gaps in the wall which are used by migrants and asylum seekers to enter the US

But Ducey will now leave it for the next Governor. Governor-elect Katie Hobbs to find the money to clean up what’s left behind. “It’s probably going to cost another $100 million to remove them just like that’s what it cost to deploy them,” Silver said.

The stipulation agreement, signed by the Governor’s office, calls for the state to remove the shipping containers in Yuma by January 4, 2023.

They were installed there by the Governor amid much fanfare over plugging holes used by migrants and asylum seekers entering the US in the Yuma Sector.

“The shipping containers in place right now, with Governor Ducey’s leadership, really secure these areas and ensure that anybody coming into the country has to go through border patrol,” said Tim Roemer, Director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.

The Yuma containers will be removed just at it appears Title 42 will be lifted possibly increasing the number of asylum seekers crossing the border. It was scheduled to end on the 21st but has been delayed until after Christmas at the earliest.

But there is no plan yet to remove the shipping containers near Sierra Vista in a very remote, rugged area. How and when it might be done is still not in agreement.

Critics say putting them in this area on National Forest land never made any sense.

“It’s an area where cars can’t drive across the border,” Silver said. “It’s so remote that that few people themselves try to pass there. “It’s just nonsense, it’s just a political stunt.”

Stunt or not, it will take a lot of time, effort and money to reverse and to restore the area.